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The Secrets of San Leyre

Bible Babble

For from within, out of the heart of man,
Come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,
Adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.
All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

The Holy Bible, Mark 7:21-23

So…from within, out of the heart of woman, comes…

Monique Alys Merchant, Operative
Vamp Squad
Olney, Maine 2015

Chapter 1

Christmas Eve, Paris, France, 1792

XX“Monique, you are now a grown woman. Pay attention to your station and manner. Do not leave the side of Ansell. He is charged with protecting you, dear.” She placed a light kiss on her daughter’s cheek. “I shall expect a complete report on everything! I will dread missing High Mass, but grand-mère is ivre once again. I must see she does not hurt herself… or anyone else. Au revoir, chère.”
XXX“Oui maman!” Monique allowed Ansell to help her into the family carriage. She was going to High Mass at the Sainte Chapelle, all by herself.
XXXJust like a grand lady!
XXXIn her family carriage, displaying their noble crest across each door!
XXXWith her own footman.
XXX“Do not worry, maman. I shall recount everything, just for you when I return. And I shall pray for King Louis and for us all.”
XXX“Do so my child, for these times are pressing. I fear for us all in this time of discontent. Be safe chère. Your father has grand plans for your marriage this coming year.”
XXXMonique’s hand flew to her lips.
XXXA marriage for her?
XXXThis coming year?
XXXWho could her father have in mind for his only daughter?
XXXMonique sat alone on the velvet seat of the family carriage as it bumped along the cobblestone streets of Paris. Monique Alys Merchant, daughter of Duke Pierre Laroque Mariquiesse Talondue Merchant, was to be married next year! The young woman could not stifle the childish giggle that welled up inside. Like a bubbling fountain, her joyous sound filled the carriage.
XXXAnsell kept his eyes on the floor and his face as cold as the marble floor of the Duke’s luxurious home. The chit was spoiled beyond belief while his people starved in the streets. She was filled with happiness while mothers cried for their sick children and fathers died in their hovels.
XXXAnsell allowed a touch of frown to ghost his shadow. The food she left behind on her plate at dinner would have fed his brother’s family, but the cursed Duke was resolute – no scraps to be shared. Every evening the housekeeper piled the left overs in the pig pen while the Duke relieved himself over the mess. His food would not fuel the rebels who defied the government and demonstrated in the streets. The egotistical man only saw the revolution as a joke for the unclean masses, while he contemplated a politically strategic marriage for his young daughter and his coffers. Ansell sighed.
XXXMonique was spoiled, but even Ansell had to admit she had a good heart. He’d seen her many times with her grand-mère. The loving touches. The care behind each carefully formulated sentence. The old woman lost her wits years before when her husband, the old Duke, was hung by rioters at the beginning of the revolution. The old Duke of Merchant was a mean cuss and violent as all hell could produce. He treated his workers like animals and sorely used their wives and daughters whenever the mood possessed him.
XXXIt was little wonder Alys Marie found him hanging from a peach tree in the orchard one morning. His face was bloated and blackened. Someone had cut his genitals away and stuffed them in his mouth. The maids say Alys Marie ran through the castle, scratching her eyes out and babbling about meeting the Devil hisself. After that, she was never the same. But Monique did not care. She tended her beloved grand-mère with sweet care and devotion. They spent many hours in the sunny salon, stitching and giggling about all sorts of nothings. Like two children making up games and rhymes, Monique sat patiently until Alys Marie would lapse into sleep… or simply lapse.
XXXAnsell chanced a glance at his charge for the evening. The child was almost a woman and as delicately beautiful as the angels that graced the windows of the Sainte Chapelle. Her golden hair was styled in high fashion and perfectly powdered to a glistening pale gold. Statuesque in the gilded fashion of the day, her regal bearing rarely allowed view of the sixteen year-old girl beneath the powder and paint. Her slippers were sewn to match the pale blue satin of her skirt and were demurely tucked beneath the lace edged petticoat that peeked from beneath the hem of her gown. All together she was a very appealing package some old influential politician, or Lord would have, come next spring. The dowry her father would settle on his choice was as pretty as the daughter he would deal away. Perhaps a member of King Louis’ inner circle would have the privilege of tasting her virginal delights, if, in fact, there was a King Louis come next spring.
XXXSurely a man such as he, a simple footman in the Duke’s home, would never taste such a morsel. He was not considered fit to even touch the muddy hem of her dress. But a man could fantasize. Ansell licked his lips and clasped his hands over his lap to hide the results of his imagination jutting harshly against the linen of his uniform pants.
XXX“Ansell, look!” Monique bounced in her seat. “It is a parade. Or some kind of celebration.”
XXXThere were people in the streets with flags and torches.
XXXThey were singing a familiar song.
XXX“Peatre, turn the carriage. Quickly!” Ansell shouted to the driver as he pulled the drapes together to shield Monique from view. “Peatre! Peatre! Now. Turn. We must leave this area now.” The footman banged on the roof of the carriage. “Mistress, pull your cloak over your head and get down.”
XXX“But Ansell, They are…” Monique screamed as the coach rocked precariously. The song had stopped and angry shouts surrounded the carriage. “What is happening, Ansell? I am afraid. Make them stop!” The carriage was rocking steadily now and Monique grabbed for the velvet handgrip next to the door.
XXX“Cover your head. Sit still and be quiet.” Ansell ordered. All stations considered, he was charged with protecting Monique. He would do what had to be done despite his position and her station. He opened the hatch behind the driver’s seat and peeked through. “Peatre?”
XXXThere was no answer from the driver.
XXXThere was no driver.
XXXThe door to the carriage flew open and filthy hands tore at Monique’s cloak.
XXXAnsell jumped between his mistress and the angry crowd. “No, leave us in peace. There is only a child here.”
XXXHis words fell on deaf ears as rough hands pulled him from the carriage.
XXXMonique screamed as her footman disappeared beneath the feet of the enraged throng. “Ansell! Don’t hurt him. He’s just a footman… no!” Monique felt herself lifted and dragged from the carriage. Her cloak was ripped from her body and a melee of hands tore at her clothing.
XXXFilthy hands.
XXXTorn and bloody claws.
XXXThe first to disappear were her mother’s diamond and pearl necklace. A woman with rotten front teeth and putrid breath clawed at Monique’s throat, breaking the necklace and leaving behind long deep scratches that immediately began to leak bright red blood. Panic ensued as the rioters scrambled for each scattered piece of the necklace. A tall man behind her, buried his hands in her stylishly coiffed hair dragging her backwards. Slammed up against the carriage door, her head exploded with pain. The grimy peasant tore the christening ring from her hand and bit it sharply.
XXX“Gold! I got me gold!” He roughly searched her hands and arms for more treasure, before he tore her grand-mère’s brooch from the bodice of her gown, ripping the delicate silk and lace open to her waist.
XXXExposed to the eyes of the thief and the crowd, Monique froze in terror. Tears began to flow and she did not know what to do. As a lady of the castle, she had never been handled in such a manner. She turned to hug the door of the carriage and held on for dear life. The carved family crest on the door dug into her wet cheek as the crowd snatched and ripped at what was left of her clothes and shoes. Soon all that she wore was her chemise and pantaloons, but still she clung to the door of the carriage.
XXXIt was all she knew.
XXXTwo burly men carrying heavy axes smashed the door from the carriage and Monique was lifted from the ground and hoisted above the hands of the crowd. Everywhere shouts of off with her head, and kill the bourgeoisie slut hammered in her ears. Still she clung to the shards of the broken door, pulling it ever tighter to her face. Hands grabbed at her body. Fingers ripped at her hair. Blood soaked her chemise and stuck to her skin.
XXXWhat was happening?
XXXIt was Christmas Eve.
XXXShe was only going to church.
XXXTo pray.
XXXFor King Louis.
XXXFor all souls.
XXXThis could not be happening.
XXXMonique screamed again and again. With each scream the crowd became louder and more violent, fueled by her pathetic pleas. Her body moved above the seething mass enduring all manner of insults and attacks, as her mind shut out the scene, clinging as she did, to the wooden scraps and the last vestige of her family’s honor. When she thought she would surely die at the hands of these dissidents, a single gunshot rang out above the din.
XXXMonique prayed it had pierced her heart and she would die quickly. She’d heard the house maids talk of brutal assaults against women and the torrid rapes of young innocents. The reality of her situation struck like a lightning bolt.
XXXThe crowd hushed and lowered her to her feet. Moving back in a circle, they surrounded her with empty space, but still hurling insults and vicious accusations.
XXXMonique stumbled but stood, lowering the precious shield from her face to see where the shot came from.
XXXIn the middle of the street rode a man dressed in the uniform of the Royal Guard, complete with a huge hat of embellished fur. The horse upon which he rode was the largest, pure-white beast Monique had ever seen. More to the point, his hands held a musket, aimed directly at the burly man who’d stolen Monique’s ring. Behind her savior rode six mounted guardsmen, all armed and wearing uniforms of the same style and color. Torchlight bounced off the gold braid edging their red coats.
XXXThe crowd parted as the soldier rode forward, training his musket on first one rabble-rouser, then another. “Leave this one alone. Can you not see she is a child? Have the French sunk so low, that now we kill our innocent children in this civil war? Do we now hold our children responsible for their parentage?” His guardsmen fanned out behind him, intently watching the crowd with carefully aimed muskets. The man rode directly to Monique who cowered alone in the middle of the crowd, trying to cover herself as best she could.
XXXDismounting with practiced grace, he unbuttoned his coat and slipped it around Monique’s shoulders. “Allow me, Mademoiselle.”
XXXSaved from certain death, she stared up into the man’s gorgeous brown eyes. “Phillipe Le Glaute Comte d’ LeEgalité, at your service.”
XXXOf all the fairytales and legends Monique and her grand-mère shared secretly together, her favorite was the one where the princess of some far away land was stolen by ugly monsters in the night. Her father searched the land day and night for her, but to no avail. The entire country mourned the loss of their fair princess until one day a knight in shinning armor, riding a pure white steed, came to the village. He promised to find the princess and free her if the King would give the knight his daughter’s hand in marriage. The King agreed and so off the knight went to find his future wife. He searched high and low, found the monster’s lair, fought a gruesome battle and freed the princess. They were wed and lived happily ever after.
XXXJust like in the fairytale, Monique’s Knight in Shinning Armor appeared to save her from the monsters.
XXXAnd she promptly fainted. Dead away.
XXXRight into the waiting arms of Phillipe Le Glaute, Comte d’ LeEgalité.
XXX“Ah chère, you are safe within my arms for now.” A gloved hand caressed Monique’s wet and bloody cheek. “Yes, for now…”
XXX“Sir, we should withdraw. These animals may come at any second.” Phillipe’s Second in Command drew his horse up next to his Commander who held Monique’s limp body. He spoke quickly and quietly.
XXX“Of course your are correct, Francoise. Do take this child from me before…” He handed Monique up to his Lieutenant and swallowed hard. “… and we shall away from this dirty business before we, too become casualties.”
XXXFree of his burden, Phillipe swung into his saddle with a grace equal to that of his dismount. “Disband now and I shall not report this disturbance to his Majesty.” He fired a single shot into the air and watched as the crowd drew back into the alleyways to take cover. Like specters dissolving with the sunrise, quietly they melted into the architecture of the city.
XXXA lone body lay in the gutter, mangled and still.
XXX“Ah, one less fanatic to deal with. Let us go.” Phillipe motioned to his men and rode back the way he had come.
XXXThe Lieutenant cradled an unconscious Monique in his arms as he rode behind his Commander. The Count’s contingent thundered through the midnight streets of Paris, riding hell-bent for election. At each intersection or square, a scout sent forward cleared the way or redirected the unit as needed. Christmas Eve in the Paris of 1792 was not safe for man, woman or child. Even the ghosts of long-dead poets feared the streets this night.
XXXAfter being turned back several times, Phillipe drew his guard to him. “This will not do. We can ride the streets all night and not find a clear path. I know a place close by that will provide safe harbor until the morn, and a way to my estate.” He pointed to an alley halfway down the street. It was a well known alley that lead to a central complex where the horses and men would be safe and concealed.
XXXFrancoise glanced at the woman in his arms. “Sir, we cannot…”
XXX“Desperate times require desperate measures, Lieutenant. What is the worst that will happen? A child’s eyes will be opened to womanhood a little sooner than her marriage bed, no?” He sighed a little too heavily. “Let us, each one of us…” He pointed individually to each soldier at his command. “… make sure it is only her eyes that will be opened. She is gentry. Let her remain that way for as long as this insane world allows.” With that statement, he rode toward the alley entrance and a concealed way to the establishment of one Madame Grace Elliott.
XXX“But, Sir?” Francoise simply shook his head, adjusted Monique’s weight on his lap and followed his leader through the elegant gates topped with a bronzed, linked G and E in flowery script.
XXXThe alley was dark with a single lamp light at the far end. It cast a soft yellow light on the two massive oak doors that closed the alley to any who ventured into its shadowy recesses. As the group rode toward the doors, small wooden panels in the sheer walls slid open revealing long shiny barrels. The decorative gates behind the last rider slid silently into place, efficiently trapping the seven men and one unconscious woman.
XXX“Madame Elliott, it is I, your Duke, come to pay a visit. Open to me.” Phillipe shouted toward a shuttered window above the massive doors.
XXX“Aye Phillipe, stop yer yellin’ man. My guards will open the doors in a moment. What ‘er ya doin’ out and about on Christmas Eve? Should ya not be home with that wench ye call a wife?” The barrels withdrew and each small window slid shut. The clinking of a chain could be heard behind the huge oak doors.
XXXFrom the darkness into the light, the huge doors swung open to reveal a wide courtyard decorated with all manner of Christmas joy. Candles glowed around a central fountain strewn with holly branches and gold tipped lace. A Christmas crèche set majestically in one corner with life size figurines. Unlike Mary and Joseph of the Bible, these characters were dressed in French finery. The central staircase leading to the upper floors was festooned with waxed mulberry and holly twigs interspersed with gold foil stars and creamy silk strands.
XXX“Mademoiselle Elliott is well prepared for the morrow, Sir.” Francoise murmured under his breath as he handed Monique down to Phillipe. “I do hope you know what you are doing.”
XXX“Desperate times, Francoise, desperate times.”
XXX“For you Sir, most assuredly.” The Lieutenant grinned secretly, then immediately sobered and sat stiffly upright.
XXX“Phillipe, what have we here?” The most beautifully constructed woman in the world descended the marble stairs, one carefully placed gold slipper after another. Mademoiselle Grace Elliott was most probably the only woman on earth who completely embodied heaven within the satin and silk confines of her clothing. Her delicate features and crystal blue eyes could capture a man’s soul, while her soft Scottish accent entranced his mind. What she could do with her body was no secret to most of the entire male population of greater France, and the British Empire. What she did for Phillipe was anyone’s guess. But he kept her in style and comfort for a reason.
XXX“Darling, we have rescued this child from the revolutionaries. Heaven only knows what she was doing alone in that carriage, on that street, at this time of night.” He carefully laid her on a bench near the bubbling fountain.
XXXGrace glanced appraisingly at the young woman who lay prostrate on her bench. “And heaven knows why you thought to bring ‘er here, Phillipe.” A slight tip of an eyebrow sent the appropriate message.
XXX“The revolutionaries prowl the streets. They are everywhere. My men and I are not safe on the streets without more support tonight. I thought…”
XXX“Quite the contrary, Phillipe. You did not think.” Grace interrupted him before she bent and slapped Monique’s face.
XXXPhillipe caught the wince of his Second in Command out of the corner of his eye.
XXXWhen the girl did not rouse, Grace slapped her again. “She is dead?” Grace smiled at Phillipe.
XXX“No, only fainted from the trauma. Be nice, my love, she is only a child.” Phillipe’s men, still astride their horses, were moving toward the open doors.
XXX“Of course, chére. Eitenne, see to the Duke’s men. Leonie, call Mathilda and wake this child. Put ‘er to bed upstairs and see to ‘er needs. I’ll see to the Duke’s.” Grace linked her arm with Phillipe’s and pulled him toward the stairs.
XXX“Mon chére, please do not call me Duke. I have taken the name Citoyen Phillipe d’ LeEgalité. Louis’ titles can be dangerous these days.
XXX“Of course, mon trésor.” She pushed the door at the top of the stairs open with her satin clad slipper. “Of course.” Twirling like an exotic dancer, Graced pulled him through the doorway and into her elegant boudoir.


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